What I liked most about Ironman 3 (besides that Tony S. was funny and cool) was that "The Invincible Ironman" seemed more fragile and somewhat vulnerable... more human (since “The Avengers” and what had threatened him in New York).
He often struggled with anxiety attacks and nightmares now. He was still very cool; things for him had just taken a turn.
In fact, because of those limitations and because of his extremely intelligent enemy this time, he had to be that much more resourceful to save his sweetheart, the President, and the world. I loved the movie, and I really appreciate how Marvel Movies has evolved Ironman's character.
Scripture reminds us that that God's strength is perfected in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9), when we are most dependent upon Him. So in life, it is really okay to become needy (to Him), because really, “Less is more”!
This week I have been down in Fort Myers, Florida speaking to the student body, school staff, and parents, telling my story of tragedy that found Help and Hope, telling them that in our broken world, we have a God that walks by our side in our greatest suffering.
I am taking this angle specifically because the people in this community have endured some specific trials and tragic personal losses recently, filling their minds with understandable questions.
Tomorrow morning I will be speaking to the church youth here, and I asked the Youth Minister to invite the kids to ask me whatever questions they might have, sort of an open Q&A time. So he posted my request online, and here are some of the results:
Did you ever see a bright light at the end of the tunnel?
What do you think your life would have been like if you weren't involved in the wreck?
Do you have any regrets, things you wish we're different or things you wish you would have said or done before the accident with your wife?
How has your daughter dealt with everything?
Were you angry with God? How did you deal with that and use this tragedy as an opportunity to talk about how good God is?
GREAT questions, right?! I will field these and others tomorrow. Most of us live with questions and doubts, and we decide to stay in our figurative holes, rather than let God lift us out, which is what He desires to do.
Psalm 40:1-3 says,
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.
I am so thankful that is true.
My heart breaks for the people and families in Boston, as I am praying for them! I can't imagine the pain they are feeling.
Billy Graham once commented: “The Bible has much to say about the brevity of life and the necessity of preparing for eternity. I am convinced that only when a man is prepared to die is he also prepared to live.”
Millennia ago Job lamented, “No man is sure of life” (24:22).
Why do such things happen? Why are loved ones snatched from us? Why do men have to die? Man has grappled with the problem of death since his creation.
However, one of the main themes of my car accident story (of both my book and when I speak) is that while life is full of trials and sufferings, we have a living God who will walk with us and help us to endure hardships, who will give us the perseverance we need to make it through the most difficult times. Because our God is One of compassion, kindness, grace, and strength.
God's word promises this in Psalm 23:4:
“Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for You are with me.”
SO thankful He is "a very present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1)
For the last few weeks, I've had the joy of putting our sweet baby boy down to sleep each night. As everyone knows, if you want your baby to rest peacefully, he simply must have all basic needs met:
- warm clothes
- clean diaper
- full tummy
- no air bubbles (help him burp)
- and some soothing music helps too (or a parent's humming at least)
I bring up my experience with Toby because Scripture says we are “like newborn babies” that “crave pure spiritual milk,” who can “grow up in (our) salvation now that (we) have tasted that the Lord is good.” 1 Peter 2:2-3
When it really comes down to it, to God we are all extremely needy and dependent. It requires humility to realize and acknowledge this truth, which is quite liberating. Not only is it freeing, but it can open the door for a warm, trusting, and loving relationship with Him, our Father!
(Oh, and if anyone wants to know, Tobias sleeps very well throughout the night and into the morning hours... longer than anyone in the whole family! We are very thankful.)
On this Good Friday, it occurred to me that we are a culture who often wears crosses as necklaces or earrings, or we hang them on our walls, etc. But we must remember the great love, grace, and selfless sacrifice that the cross represents. Jesus was Redeeming us, His people. He was fulfilling the great Rescue plan that had always been in place. Scripture tells us,
For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2
I believe the joy that the author mentions is Jesus' great love for us, giving us an opportunity for glory, for eternal life. But we cannot forget how dreadful that cross really was:
“Crucifixion was not simply a convenient way of executing prisoners. It was the ultimate indignity, a public statement by Rome that the crucified one was beyond contempt. The excruciating physical pain was magnified by the degradation and humiliation. No other form of death, no matter how prolonged or physically agonizing, could match crucifixion as an absolute destruction of the person.” – ESV Study Bible Notes
Our baby boy, Toby, is about 3 ½ months old now, and we love him so much. He is such a sweet and cute little guy! These days, I have the privilege of being the last one who gets to hold Tobias before he finally closes his eyes for the night (all night lately!).
I recently overheard Christe telling someone that I have the “magic touch.” I have no idea how that is, but then something occurred to me. Maybe Toby feels secure in his father’s arms… after all, Scripture says,
“Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for He shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders” (Deuteronomy 33:12)
“The eternal God is our refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27)
… speaking of how we all can securely rest in the arms of our heavenly Father.
No matter what you've been through in life, surely you have asked God, “WHY did you allow this?”! It seems reasonable, since we are taught (and many of us believe) that God is all knowing, all loving, and all powerful. He should certainly put a stop to a lot of the terrible things we see on the news at night! He should halt the shootings, crimes, and wars, or at least He should have a hand in stopping some of the natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy, right?!
This is such a tough question, one that causes some to question the core of their faith and many to at least wrestle with it. Of course, I wrote about this topic at different points throughout my book (Mile Marker 825, www.milemarkerbook.com). As for this blog, I actually found another fantastic blog by Christian author Lee Strobel that thoroughly sums up all I had to say:
It seems that when you've endured a major life tragedy, people feel more inclined to ask you questions about the workings of God... questions like, "How come?" and "Why?"...stuff like that they think I have more of a clue about since I was widowed, almost killed, and a single dad for a long time. (I also think folks naturally expect that I might know more about God since I was trained to be a pastor.) But these mysterious questions are tough ones that have been asked for ages!
Today, I want to tackle one of them (and others in coming weeks): "How long, Lord?"
To address it, I've put below the last part of chapter 7. of my book, Mile Marker 825 (www.milemarkerbook.com):
My work at Shiloh included long days preparing to launch and run this new youth camp ministry. While I did this, Abby attended a local daycare. In the evening, after I picked her up, we would play, eat, and take part in our bedtime rituals. After she went to bed, I either pulled my laptop back out to do more Shiloh work, or I talked on the phone, watched a movie, or played video games.
However, my heart still ached, as I felt sad and lonely. I could not act as if everything had suddenly become perfect inside of me, simply because my daughter and I had such a wonderful relationship. The house became dreadfully quiet by 9:00 every night. To the point that I watched every movie that I’d ever owned, just to avoid the painful noiselessness. Some nights were better than others, and every night, of course, I would eventually grow weary, and dose off to sleep.
I realized that without a doubt, I needed to continue to make sure that I grieved the loss of Jill properly. I had a friend who could help me along that path, as a licensed Christian Counselor in Oklahoma City. We began meeting on a weekly basis with the intended purpose of helping me along in my mourning process. My friend led me through the difficult “time to mourn” (Ecclesiastes 3:4), so that I could come out the backside with sweet memories that I could more easily embrace, and eventually share with Abby. After meeting with him for several months, I felt assured that, although I had endured some severe emotional wounding along with my physical injuries, I could now readily move forward without hesitation.
I should emphasize without hesitation, because sometimes I wished that the “move forward” didn’t seem so slow. Throughout all of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, the most often asked inquiry is, “How long, O Lord, how long?” It seems that the people of God consistently cried out for relief, which were the cries of my heart at this time. Ironically, though, the most repeated command from God is “Do not fear” or “Do not be afraid.” God does not give a direct answer to the “How long?” question. Instead, he responds with His own imperative which, in essence says, “Trust me. I’ve got everything under control.”
I recently came across a real life application of these Scriptures at the time of this writing that blew me away. One of my seminary professors was down in Haiti and spoke about a man he met whose house was destroyed in a recent hurricane. This man would be forced now to live in a church with 150 others. I thought of all that man had lost and would now be forced to deal with, not to mention his loss of privacy, and having to wait in line just to simply use the restroom!
My friend asked the man, "How long will this problem last?"
The Haitian man quickly replied, "I don't know. But God does. And He can be trusted."
My eyes got wet as I heard these words... I couldn't help but question myself and my own (lack of) faith. I don't easily trust God in the midst of such obvious trials. I then realized that throughout Scripture, it was trials that led people to a place of more complete reliance and dependence upon God. And it was there that they learned He was trustworthy. I was both encouraged and challenged by this man who had hope in spite of the hurricane.
In my own situation, I’ll admit that God showed His kindness to me by responding to my “How long?” question in like form with numerous calls to trust His gracious nature, but my severely shaken faith in Him needed to be restored. This would soon begin to take place, as I was starting to understand the meaning of dependable Fatherhood myself.
Recently, I let Abby, who is now ten years old, read the last part of this chapter. She was shocked to learn of the grief and discouragement that I felt at this time, how I sought emotional relief.
“How Long, O Lord?” – Psalm 6:3, 13:1-2, 35:17, 79:5, 80:4, 82:2, 89:46, 90:13, 94:3, 119:84; Isaiah 6:11; Jer. 12:4; Hab. 1:2, 2:6; Zech. 1:12; Rev. 6:10.
“Do not fear.” – Gen. 15:1, 21:17, 26:24, 46:3; Ex. 14:13; Num. 21:34; Deut. 1:17, 1:21, 1:29, 3:2, 3:22, 7:18, 18:22, 20:1, 31:6; Josh. 8:1, 10:8, 10:25, 11:6; Jud. 6:23; 1 Sam. 12:20; 2 Kings 1:15, 19:6; 1 Chron. 22:13, 28:20; 2 Chron. 20:15, 20:17, 32:7; Isaiah 10:24, 37:6, 40:9, 41:14, 43:5, 44:2, 44:8, 54:4; Jer. 1:8, 42:11; Ezekiel 2:6, 3:9; Dan. 10:12, 10:19; Zech. 8:13, 8:15; Mt. 1:20, 10:26, 10:28, 28:5, 28:10; Lk. 1:13, 1:30, 2:10, 12:4, 12:32; Jn. 12:15 (Zech. 9:9), 14:27; Acts 18:9, 27:24; Rev. 1:17, 2:10
I recently read this blog that one of my former seminary professors sent out called "When We are Worn Out," and I thought it was SO great, so thorough, and so relevant to all of us given the demands of life; I thought I would just pass it on as my own blog post...
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:29-31 (NIV)
With the Games of the 30th Olympiad upon us, I felt my blog subject was already chosen. Specifically, though, I chose an Olympic memory from 20 years ago, one that is likely etched in many of our hearts forever...
After tearing his Achilles tendon mere minutes before he was set to run the 400m in the 1988 Games, British sprinter Derek Redmond vowed to take home a medal in 1992 despite five surgeries to repair his damaged limb. But after a strong start out of the gate in the semifinal 400m heat, bad luck struck again in the form of a popped hamstring. With the whole world watching, Redmond’s father bolted past security and onto the track, wrapping an arm around his hobbled, tear-soaked son, and together they finished the race. Redmond never ran professionally again, but the image of father and son completing an Olympic dream is among the Game’s most enduring.
We can all agree that Derek's final 100 meters show as much endurance as any Olympic memory. The word endurance or perseverance in the Greek language (as found in the Bible) means to "keep going under pressure." Doesn't that say it all?
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James 1:12
Most of my friends know I am a Superhero nut because of my t-shirts, caps, conversations, or Facebook posts. Heck, I even have a Superman trailer-hitch and a Batman canteen! Recently, JoJo asked me, “Daddy, who is your favorite superhero?” Tough question; I like so many of 'em for lots of reasons (especially with these really cool new movies comin' out)!
I use to always like SUPERMAN best, simply because he had the most powers – strongest, fastest, etc., plus the nicest because he had such kind parents.
But I think SPIDERMAN is awesome too because he's just a teen-age kid who's way smart, can move in any way, is sarcastic to the bad guys, has slick moves, and his Spider-Sense is especially cool.
And I loved CAPTAIN AMERICA in his recent movie and in The Avengers because he had the compassionate heart of a small guy, had very down-to-earth moral thinking, and he was super-fast-and-strong.
I could go on and on...
But I have to mention Batman, the Caped Crusader. What I really appreciate about the Dark Knight is that he is just a regular guy who isn't from another planet, hasn't had any big chemical injections, and was not struck by lightning. He is just very well-trained, has a lot of cool inventions, and is rich enough that he can afford to live in a huge mansion with a big cave under it (and he doesn't ever have to go to work). Plus, he is extremely motivated, and has a major survival instinct. I think what I appreciate most about Bruce Wayne (Batman) is that, deep down, I think (or I wish) I could be Batman (if I had a lot more money, trained a lot more, and had a lot more inventions and a much bigger house). Right now, JoJo and I tell each other before bed that “when the signal shines, we'll meet to go fight crime in Gotham City.”
Whether or not you have any affection for superheroes (or you like to day-dream), we can all agree that we want good to win over evil. Recently I came across this short video summing up the story of the greatest win of good over evil, the greatest Rescue, the greatest real Superhero.
“In this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world.”
These days I umpire little league baseball games. Boy, do I come home with some funny stories to tell Christe, Abby, and JoJo! And occasionally, I get brushed with a wild pitch and need to apply a bit of ice before I go to bed. Also from time to time, I get yelled at by parents who can see plays better from 30 yards away than I can from only 5 yards. Knowing that I'm coming home to my sweet wife and her reassurance helps me in those moments.
Last night I was umping some 8 year olds (so I was hit by a few pitches because the catcher was just a little boy who didn't shield me so much!). What I found most fascinating was that at least half of the boys, as they approached the batters box, would look through the back stop (right over my shoulder) for their parents, hoping to catch their eyes... some boys would even say, "Hey Dad!" or something to get attention. In that particular case actually, the father replied, "I see ya, just get ready to hit."
I was so mad at that man! This little 8 year old boy just wanted his dad's approval, some affirmation... and that man could've made that kid about a foot taller if he would've said something (anything) positive like, "Hey buddy, I see ya... Long-ball-Joey's coming up to bat!"
(Yeah, you noticed I put my own kid's name in there...)
I know I'm mostly just supposed to be calling balls & strikes, fair & foul, safe & out on nights like that and I'm certainly not asked to be a social-psychologist... but c'mon! We were all called to something better and higher than that! Our children desparately need our kindness, our grace, our investment in their lives... a reflection of the Father's love for us all.
Just as parents are kind to their children, the Lord is kind to all who worship him. Psalm 103:13
Almost every week, it seems that I tell a different little story about something that I think is funny or cute in the life of Abby or JoJo. But I really don't think this will stop (sorry if it's really bugging you) because I find that there is a lot to learn from the lives of my children! And it especially will continue since Christe has just passed her 1st trimester in her pregnancy!
I went to Abby's Field Day a few days ago and volunteered at one of the booths, where she was clearly the best student at picking up marbles out of a children's pool with her toes. Seriously, though, I will always show up around my 11 year old daughter's activities as long as she thinks it's cool having dad around.
On a separate funny note, tonight Christe and I were walking around the block with JoJo after we played some soccer in the field in our subdivision. After walking a while, JoJo looked up at me and asked,
"Dad, are you tired?"
"Yeah, a little bit," I replied.
"I'm A LOT tired!" he exclaimed. I tried hard not to laugh. He then asked me if I could carry him.
I love the honesty of our kiddos, and I can easily consider why Jesus would say, "Let the little children come to me. God's kingdom is made up of people like these." (Matt. 19:14)
My buddy's wife just posted this, and I actually cried a little with sadness because I knew it to be so true... shamefully so. And I know the CHURCH is supposed to filled with the presence of God and His love and His people acting like Him and stuff like that...
But we are human, and we tend to just mess things up sometimes. Check it out...
"His grace is sufficient..." 2 Cor. 12:9
You ever been so proud of your kids that you could hardly keep it to yourself?! (As a young man, I never imagined I'd ever say things like that!)
Last weekend, Abby scored a 24/25 at her "Bible Drill" up in St. Charles. I didn't get to go because I was coaching JoJo's soccer game. Here's how it went:
At the contest... questions were asked, and whoever among the kids knew the answer would step forward, and one would actually give the answer. Well, on one question, Abby stepped forward and then realized her answer was just slightly off. So she stepped back into the line. It seems she could have maybe just held her place since 5 other kids had stepped forward, and the judge would've only picked one of 'em.
Abby, in usual fine form, admitted her minor error, and stepped backwards, instead of just letting someone else get picked. I told her later that I couldn't possibly be more proud of her. To which my perfectionist daughter replied, "But Dad, I missed one!"
I answered, "Sweetie, I'm certainly proud of you for your hard work, effort, and excellence, but I think I'm more proud of you for your awesome character in how you handled that one that you missed. That, my dear, is MOST excellent!"
I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. 1 Chronicles 29:17a
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